BE OPEN Goes Big

This September I’ve been working with BE OPEN, the foundation who most notably brought the BE OPEN Sound Portal in London’s Trafalgar Square. Designed by Arup and featuring the work of a number of pioneering recording artists including drum and bass pioneer (and secret guitar demon) Squarepusher. If you wrote about it, thank you for you coverage and interest in the work of BE OPEN. As Ben Evans, director of the London Design Festival said said at the launch of the Sound Portal: ‘you’ll hear a lot more about this foundation in the coming years.’ Having worked with them since April 2012 I am astonished by how much they’ve already achieved.


The foundation worked closely with Tom Dixon at his west London canal-side HQ. Described by Dixon as a flash-market showcase of young design talent, BE OPEN SPACE consisted of eight site-specific raw-wood stands conceived by designer-engineers Pan Studio and JailMake.  It wasn’t my kind of thing generally, but typically for BE OPEN there was something that really grabbed me amongst everything else. Each hut showcased one of London’s best designer makers exploring a particular sense – taste, touch, smell, sight, sound. Technology Will Save Us for example showed off how to make basic sound synthesisers, which I found fascinating as was the conversation I had there. 

What I really enjoyed about working with BE OPEN was there sense of having a mission. Looking across the whole of London Design Festival BE OPEN made a concerted effort to provide what they thought was needed. Working with their partners at WIRED magazine and the Victoria and Albert they provided two fascinating discussions of the nature of sound design featuring luminaries such as Matthew Herbert musician and director of the recently revived and much celebrated BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Be Open Talk on Sound: Tom Dixon, Lauren Stewart, Host, Matthew Herbert, Benjamin Koren & Roland Lamb

Yet perhaps most typical of the serious and unshowy support of design effected by the founding during London Design Festival were the BE OPEN AWARDS.  This is the second iteration of the awards scheme that launched in Milan in April 2012 to celebrate the best work by young designers from all over the world and further their careers with vital study grants.

Samuel Bernier, from Canada, was one of three winners of a study grant and money to pursue his design at the BE OPEN AWARDS, the premier celebration of young design talent at the London Design Festival. His work Project RE_ is an ingenious way of transforming and upgrading of objects reaching the end of their useful life using pioneering 3D Printing technology and earned Samuel a share of £10,000 and funding to pursue his studies further. Bernier’s project is stunning simple. Customized lids are created using low cost 3D-printing. They are then clipped or screwed onto standard jars, tin cans and bottles to create new and personal objects.

Project RE_, by Samuel Bernier

The Awards are a core part of both London’s premier annual design event and the philosophy of Elena Baturina, founder of BE OPEN. ‘The reason I am fascinated in design is that it has the potential to change the world around us, for the better,’ she said. ‘These winning works are fascinating examples on improving on what we have and I am delighted that we are able to give them a worldwide platform through BE OPEN.’

What is even more impressing are their plans for the future. Their plans to produce a rating platform, called Edurating, is fascinating proposal. BE OPEN’s idea is to create a  full text database on educational institutions in art and design across Europe, with ratings of universities, educational programmes, and best graduates. The proposal is  an interesting component to reach and provide support for design students on an ongoing basis.

BE OPEN are set to become an important support to design education, not only providing help to competition winners but also help to all in the form of information on existing possibilities for education, vocational programmes, training courses, workshops or field studies. On the website prospective students will be able to see pictures of the universities and read CVs of their educators and managers. Students will be able to leave feedback.

Once a year, will publish its rating of universities, educational institutions, managers, educators, graduates, to be distributed online and in mass media. Monthly reviews are envisaged to be published at the web site, on most interesting educational programmes, to promote interest of students to study possibilities in design education. According to the organisers they will “research all available Grants and existing Foundations to help not only the wealthy and affluent, but also less privileged students and young people.”

In addition they will also expand their own programme of talks, hosting them on their rapidly expanding website BE OPEN 

As part of an inter-college project (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art, London College of Communication and Central St Martins) students have been commissioned by the Be Open Foundation to produce sound pieces for installation in their ARUP designed Sound Portal. After an initial Master Class series delivered in and around the Portal during the autumn of 2012 under tutor guidance students will begin to work in groups on their sound installation.

Each separate project will focus around a unique theme that responds to the distinctive opportunity of working in an environment that is entirely dedicated to sound. The formation of a curatorial working group will ensure cohesiveness of delivery and provide a quality mark for the work.

The student pieces will be launched at the ‘Sounding Space’ symposium in the Spring/Summer 2013. Here contributors will be invited from the worlds of acoustic engineering, sound art and sound design to present an innovative mix of talks that will be contextualised by some philosophical and scientific keynote addresses. The symposium will be recorded for later broadcast by ResonanceFM.


About cosmopolitanscum

Journalist, writer, commentator, blogging about architecture, urbanism and design from a humanist perspective.
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